The newly launched "largest bookshop in the world" could have been designed to combat outbreaks of Raynerism. The Internet Book Shop brings 750,000 titles to your fingertips and is open every hour God sends. Users won't be downloading entire tomes, though; this is basically a high-tech mail order service. Browsing is confined to an austere list of titles - though a number of forward-thinking publishers are contributing reviews, jacket graphics, author biogs and even the odd sample chapter. To order, the user clicks on a book title and fills in the on-screen order form. Orders are then passed on to boring old conventional booksellers to fill, while the IBS takes a 5% commission.
There's only one snag. All this futuristic stuff isn't very sensuous, is it? Rayner writes lovingly about the first book he stole, John Donne's Sermons, with its "tan and red dust jacket and handsome black boards", its paper "thick and stiffish with the sweet, yellow colour of Cornish ice-cream". With fetishists like Rayner around, the traditional bookshop will surely never die.
8 `Granta 49: Money' is published by Penguin at £7.99. The Internet Book Shop: http://www.bookshop.co.uk/Reuse content